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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field

"Notes from the Field" provides frequent updates and pictures from our biologists and students who are working in the field or at our headquarters, the World Center for Birds of Prey.

Found 118 entries matching your request:

California Condor update summer 2011

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Here on the condor crew, we all revel in anticipation of that next major feat that these birds accomplish, or that profound next step in condor biology that we hadn't thought of, but may have just witnessed for the first time while wandering the hills of the high desert observing this species. Like the first egg laid in 2001, the first wild-fledging in 2003, the first condor nest located in an ancient Anasazi ruin back in 2005, or.. .well I could go on and on, but I won't. Despite all of these exciting things that we learn from this under-studied and reintroduced species, what always sticks- are the hardships. How many birds were lost, or how many nests failed, or how many birds were treated for lead-poisoning this season are the usual topics of conversation; and rightfully so. Lead is the one major roadblock that is halting a complete recovery of this species. There are always other avenues of species recovery that may need more exploration, but when we are talking California Condor, just about every aspect of this project is in some way, shape, or form related to managing around lead poisoning. In this past year we have recorded our highest losses of free-flying condors to date, with almost all of them due to lead poisoning. And for those that went missing during the months of highest lead-exposure- the harsh winter months following the big game hunting seasons, lead is a major suspect for those mortalities.

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2011 Aplomado Falcon Territory Occupancy Survey Summary - South Texas

Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Like in years past, we spent approximately one month in southern Texas surveying suitable habitat and, predominantly, historically occupied falcon territories in the areas in and around Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR). The main goal of the survey was to determine territory occupancy.

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2011 South Texas Artificial Nest Structure Work

Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

The days are getting longer, temperatures are climbing, and the wind is making a regular presence tossing up dust and tumbleweeds; doing its best to make working outside miserable…winter is coming to an end and spring in southern New Mexico has arrived. It is time to work on aplomado falcon nest structures for our southern Texas population. Building the nest boxes has always been a very enjoyable part of the job. It sort of reminds me of those childhood projects of building bird houses, chicken coops, benches, etc. Simple yet very effective. When it comes to aplomado falcons, many of these artificial nests are not totally necessary in coastal Texas where the population appears stable and where natural nests, built by other species like white-tailed hawks and Chihuahuan ravens, are abundant. However, what the nest structures do provide, now that we have seemingly worked out their design to its maximum effectiveness, is a very safe place for falcons to nest and ultimately improving nest success and productivity in the population – a scenario often not offered by many natural nests. Essentially, our breeding pairs of aplomado falcons, particularly those utilizing nest boxes, are working as miniature hack (release) sites that at the very least during difficult years (e.g. droughty periods) are apparently able to keep the population at a stable level so long as habitat is available. We can make this statement as we have found recruitment rates of wild fledged young are much higher than that of captive-bred released falcons. So the beneficial role the nest structures provide cannot be overstated.

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California Condor Recovery Project

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! After a large lapse in writing, I would like to apologize for the lull and ensure that regular updates are sure to be more frequent thanks to our new NFTF setup on our website. To briefly pick up where I left off in my last writing, I would like to summarize the season’s nesting outcomes. After all the dust settled from our research and searching for possible new nesting pairs and their locations all season, we ended up with only one confirmed chick hatched. The reliable pairing of 126F and 114M in the Vermilion Cliffs hatched young condor #558 on 12 April 2010. Since we were still releasing birds during that time and since the nest cave location is so close to the release site, our monitoring of that nest was very reliable. Throughout the summer months, the pair was exhibiting perfect behavior suggesting the raising of a healthy chick. As the summer progressed, our visuals of the nestling were more frequent, and then daily, as it aged and developed in mobility and curiosity around the immediate vicinity of the nest cave porch. Then on 20 October 2010 veteran biologist Shaun Putz observed the chick several hundred meters away from the nest cave and now taking short flights in the area along the cliff wall; a successful fledge! At the time of writing, 558 has been a little more active in flight, but no major flight distances have been observed yet. This marks the 11th wild-produced condor to successfully fledge since our releases began in 1996.

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Aplomado Falcon Updates - March 2010

Brian Mutch — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

During the second week of March, Angel Montoya, Paul Juergens and I once again completed our annual survey in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, looking for nesting Aplomado Falcons. Unfortunately by the end of the second day, and having collectively driven more than 1,200 miles in much of the best habitat we could look at, only one adult pair was located. This pair was observed at a yucca on the Baeza Ranch complete with a very nice Chihuahuan Raven nest.

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Aplomado Falcons update Feb. 2010

Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Angel Montoya, Brian Mutch, and I have just wrapped up our trip to South Texas to maintain existing nest structures and place a few new nest boxes in Aplomado Falcon territories.

It was a very productive trip despite the difficulties in getting around. Both the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge areas this winter finally received much needed rainfall, which made travel off of pavement or maintained all-weather roads next to impossible in the trucks. However, the ATVs we brought down were great and we generally had no trouble getting us to the nest sites, even with tools and materials in tow.

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South Texas Aplomado Falcon update, April-May 2010

Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

As of 14 May, Brian Mutch, Angel Montoya, and I completed the 2010 Aplomado Falcon occupancy survey in South Texas. Tom Cade and Grainger Hunt also visited during the first full week of surveying in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge area. Overall, the results are very similar to what we have observed the last two years.

The falcons looked great, and it was a relief to see the area recovering from one of the most severe droughts on record. Brian and I arrived in South Texas in a torrential downpour, and Angel and I left the area in very similar weather. However, the weather during the survey period was quite favorable, especially during the first three weeks. During the last week of surveying, warm winds out of the southeast and high humidity were the norm. We did make good use of our ATVs early in the survey; although by the end of the survey, all of the roads had dried out and we were able to drive the trucks pretty much anywhere we needed to go.

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Spring 2010

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The melting of snow in condor country is welcomed by an amicable sigh from our field crew, as winter moved out and the spring months settled in. We have been monitoring our newest releases, condors 442F and 484F, very closely since their initial release back on 6-March-10. The 15th annual public release was met with less than favorable weather, as high wind, rain, and snow all passed through on release day causing me to make the call to close the release-pen atop the Vermilion Cliffs early and try again the following day; a decision made to lessen the chance of mishap as bad weather always opens up avenues of misfortune when you mix low visibility, young condors in their most critical time for survival, and hungry coyotes on the prowl in twilight seeking out that next meal. On 7-March-10 both birds took flight from the release-pen into the perennial wind of northern Arizona in spring. The high wind really intensified the following week, making flight and roosting ability for these two new birds very tough, but our vigilant field crew put in the observation and work necessary to see that they survived night after night. Our observations led us to realize that 442 just wasn’t quite ready for the unfamiliar high wind/flight combo, and her will to stay grounded in the wind, even at night, left me with no choice but to trap her and curb any chance of falling victim to coyote predation; so we trapped and placed her back in our flight-pen to hold until September when she will be released into more favorable weather conditions. Condor 484F handled the weather just the opposite, navigating perfectly in flight and roosting very comfortably in safe zones up on the cliff wall away from ground dwelling predators; and to this day she is doing great integrating into the wild flock allowing us to shift our observation to pairs that are currently nesting.

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September-October 2009

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

With the big game rifle seasons well underway in northern Arizona and southern Utah, we see a major shift in foraging behavior of the condor population. The majority of the domestic sheep herds have been moved off the Kolob range down to lower elevations for the winter, and aside from some stragglers that will remain, the primary food source for condors in Utah becomes hunter-killed deer and elk remains. The archery hunts of September provide the birds a great, clean food source, and although limited, they found plenty of gut-piles to scavenge throughout the month of September. And then as October arrives, the rifle seasons provide significantly more gut-piles as well as un-retrieved wounded animals.

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August 2009

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

As the summer months begin tapering off, the wild condor population is treated with a new source of food in the rugged backcountry of the region—deer and elk carcasses and their gut-piles that are added to the ecosystem by the first archery hunts of the year. We have already documented a handful of archery gut-piles that were fed upon by the birds, in just the first few days of the start of the archery hunts. This is a great, clean source of food for the wild population that the birds really seem to favor over the whole carcasses that need to be worked upon to get through the tough hide, although we have found a few whole-carcass sites that have had birds camped out on for several days so far.

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June/July 2009

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Sheep in Kolob meadow
Sheep in Kolob meadow
The summer months in the high desert of northern Arizona and southern Utah have instilled the usual behavioral changes that we witness each year around the same time- the shift in foraging range into the higher elevations of southern Utah. By mid June, the majority of our population starts to gradually make the “scouting” flights up north to the Kolob range in search for presence of the abundant domestic sheep herds that are brought to the area of private ranches for summer grazing. Once enough sheep are localized by the birds, they start to key in on the fragmented herds, knowing that food is going to become available daily as sheep mortality starts to initialize.

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Spring 2009

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! Our field crew has been extremely busy releasing and monitoring condors both new and old, before the heat in the northern Arizona desert makes both activities more and more difficult for both field crew and young condors. Since my last NFTF posting, we have cleared out our flight-pen and released an additional six condors out to join the population. We have also documented behavior suggesting the successful egg-laying of five total pairs this breeding season.

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February - March 2009

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The warm and windy weather has moved into northern Arizona, signaling a change in season as winter weather fades and mild, gusty air sweeps across the high desert. With this change in season, our crew has changed gears as well, shifting from population trapping to releasing new, inexperienced condors to boost numbers of this free-flying population. We concluded our winter trapping of the entire population in early February, allowing us to change transmitters, administer a field test of blood-lead values for each bird, and treat individuals as necessary. To date, we have had contact on all but two individual condors, 13 year-old male Condor 134 and young three-year-old female Condor 404 are presumed to have not made it through the winter.

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Winter 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The holiday season of 2008 has had our field crew on their toes managing the wild population of condors all throughout northern Arizona and southern Utah. Young Condors 383 and 384, our newest releases during my last writing, were doing perfectly for a few months, and then some bad luck struck for male Condor 384 in early December. Both birds were feeding, socializing, and roosting without flaw, enabling us to release out a few more new birds into the wild population. Then on 7 December 2008, while monitoring atop the Vermilion Cliffs at our release site, crew member Maria Dominguez noticed mortality signals from Condor 384’s transmitters. Immediately she hiked out and tracked down one signal to a transmitter that was still attached to just a wing remaining in the sand. She then placed the disheartening phone call and gave me the news. Just moments later we tracked down the other wing, several hundred meters away from the first, and then analyzed the scene to reveal what had happened as the undisturbed sand told the story—coyote predation while the bird was on the ground. This was an unfortunate loss, but still is the first natural predation mortality suffered since 2002.

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Northern Aplomado Falcon Restoration – 2008 Report

(TPF) The Peregrine Fund — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

PROPAGATION
In 2008, the Aplomado Falcon restoration program had 34 Aplomado Falcons lay 156 fertile eggs that hatched, and 152 (97%) survived to release age. One of the ovulating falcons was a first-time layer. One falcon, which ovulated in 2007, did not lay in 2008. In addition to the captive eggs, three eggs were removed from a nest that was in jeopardy in South Texas and brought to the Boise facility. The three eggs hatched and all survived to release age. Including the wild eggs, 190 were fertile, 159 hatched, and 155 survived to release age.

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September-October 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! Our newest releases, Condors 383 and 384, have been doing great. Both birds have needed minimal monitoring from our field crew since the first week they were out as free-flying condors. Just after my last NFTF posting, young Condor 384 made it to our proffered feeding site and cropped up, and she has made a healthy routine of it ever since. This was a huge sigh of relief, enabling us to dedicate the majority of our monitoring to the rest of the population as the fall hunting seasons approached.

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August-September 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The summer months have come to a close and our crew has been busy monitoring the condor population and preparing for the upcoming fall hunting seasons. The archery deer hunts have concluded on the Kaibab Plateau, as well as in the Kolob region of Southern Utah, providing the condor population with another great food source as offal piles are scattered throughout the forests capping off a successful archery hunt.

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July 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Nest cave of Condors 133 and 187.
Nest cave of Condors 133 and 187.
As the dust settles, and the 2008 breeding season for the condor project winds down, we now have a pretty good idea on which pairs have succeeded in hatching a young condor chick. I say “pretty good idea” because one of the current active nest caves in the Grand Canyon has such a small opening to the inside of the cave, we are unable to get any sort of visuals inside to confirm a young condor. But based on behavior, both Condors 133F and 187M are still visiting the inside of the cave daily, always with a full crop of carrion. The visits are quick, usually only lasting a few minutes, and then they depart from the small opening.

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June 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! June has been a fairly standard month as far as condor activity goes during the summer. The wild flock is covering immense distances as the birds forage daily for new carrion carcasses that dot the landscape of condor country. To date, our total number of birds tracked in the Kolob region of southwestern Utah has topped 31 birds, which is about average for this time of year. This region will see an increasing amount of birds roosting and foraging there as the summer months progress. GPS tracking, as well as conventional telemetry tracking by biologists on the ground has led our crew to several carcass locations that the flock has been feeding on, mainly domestic sheep in Utah, and mule deer on the Kaibab Plateau in Arizona.

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May 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The hot summer temperatures have arrived, and the wandering tendency of the condor flock has increased as the birds expand ranges in search of food. We are already seeing many birds making the 150+ mile round-trip journey up to southern Utah for apparent “scouting” missions in search of the abundant domestic sheep herds that are just starting to be brought back up on the mountain for summer grazing. In fact, newly tagged wild-produced Condor 441 has already made the lengthy trip north on three separate occasions. We determined this via radio telemetry tracking by our field biologists on the ground. Condor 459, the other wild-produced bird from the 2007 season, has also been tracked foraging with other birds all over the Kaibab Plateau, not yet making the long trip north with the others.

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Spring 2008 Aplomado Falcon Project Update

Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge<br /> male Aplomado Falcon at sunrise.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
male Aplomado Falcon at sunrise.
We are now well into spring and fast approaching summer which means falcons re-established in the wilds of South and West Texas, as well as those in the captive breeding facility in Boise, are well into the nesting season.

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April 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

April 2008 has had our crew on their toes and ready for anything. This eager and willing attitude stems from the behavior of the wild birds and the excitement of what may lie ahead as we manage an ever increasing and an always intriguing population of condors. In the past month we have trapped and tagged for the first time our two wild-fledged birds, trapped almost our whole population for blood lead testing and transmitter changes in just two weeks, tracked and recovered a condor with a severe wing injury, and monitored four (but most likely five) active nests across the condors expansive range here in Northern Arizona. To say it has been a busy month is an understatement, but this kind of busy is what our crew lives for!

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March 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! The month of March has been a productive one for the project here in Arizona. To date we have had five females lay eggs, we released four new condors into the wild population, and we were able to catch the first visual on wild-produced Condor 441 since September 2007.

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January/February 2008

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! Our field crew here in Arizona concluded the 2007 season with an amazing effort in making sure that the whole free-flying population of 61 birds was alive and accounted for. For the first time in a handful of years we made it through, what is always our most trying period, without having a single mortality concluding the fall/winter months. This is a period when we document our highest annual rates of lead exposure in the condor population by testing blood lead levels in the field, and treating birds as necessary. Although we did still have to treat a large portion of our population for varying levels of exposure, we rang in the new year with good spirits and high hopes for the upcoming breeding season, which is currently in full swing.

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December 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

We closed out the month of November with eager eyes focused on the new Vermilion Cliffs’ chick, Condor 459, that was looking ready to take a first flight daily. But this active behavior continued, and currently continues, well beyond the assumed six-month fledge period when wild condors usually take to the wing. What separates this bird from all of our other timely fledges from the past, is the amount of structure in the immediate surrounding of the nest cave. The wall is filled with several large ledges, sandstone pinnacles, and steps that harbor the excitable behavior of this bird, as well as the close proximity of the release site that is giving the youngster frequent feeding from the two parent birds (male Condor 114 and female Condor 126), keeping the desire to travel and forage with mom and dad at a minimum. The young bird has been observed flapping and climbing all over the area, but no major controlled flights have been observed to date.

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October 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Each September we get a glimpse of what lies in the autumn months ahead, as condor foraging behavior progresses on the Kaibab Plateau and in the Kolob region of southern Utah. We see use of travel corridors increase and utilization for roosting and foraging spikes up dramatically during the month of September. This behavior shift in the condor population maintains a constant increase as we enter October, and comes to a peak in November, before the snowfall buries their foraging range.

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July - August 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

The summer months of July/August have come and gone, leaving behind some long periods of extreme heat followed by heavy thunderstorms. Here in condor country we kicked off the month of July with a happy homecoming, returning five-year-old Condor 270 back home from his stay at the Phoenix Zoo.

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June 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

The May NFTF concluded with a hint of speculative hope for the Vermilion Cliffs pair; hope in anticipation of Condors 126 and 114 pulling off their second successful hatching of a wild-produced chick. Based on close observation and cognizant eyes from our field crew to recognize nesting behavior, we had a good idea when the pair should be showing the presence of a hatching chick from the depths of their nest cave. And as expected, by the end of the first week of June we were sure the Vermilion Cliffs nest cave was housing a very young condor. Subsequent behavior of the pair post-hatch date strengthened our assumptions, with both birds venturing out to forage (mainly to the release site due to close proximity with the nest cave), and then immediately returning back to the darkness of the cave; indicating urgency in feeding a needy condor nestling. This routine behavior continued for the following three weeks, with no observable changes or reasons for concern.

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Ants Put a Hitch in Falcon Placement

Evelyn Cronce — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Thousands of harvester ants were swarming in the desert July 6, when members of the Aplomado Falcon Project arrived to put the birds in their hack boxes. The ants apparently were looking for higher ground. They found it, not only on the blooming yuccas, but also all over the three hack boxes that had been built to house the 11 young falcons scheduled for release July 13. This was not business as usual.

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May 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Vermilion Cliffs Nest Site
Vermilion Cliffs Nest Site
Greetings Notes from the Field readers! The warm air and steady winds that usually blanket northern Arizona during the month of May, sure showed up in 2007, allowing consistent routine flight travel and optimal foraging conditions for the condor population. The flock has been free foraging on wild bison carcasses and mule deer on the north Kaibab Plateau, elk south of Grand Canyon National Park in the Kaibab National Forest, a bighorn sheep ewe in the Grand Canyon, and domestic sheep and cattle carcasses north of the release site in southern Utah. It is this bountiful food supply, as well as the 90+ degree days that make condor viewing so difficult at the release site in the Vermilion Cliffs. It is not uncommon to have only a handful of the 56 free flying condors roosting at the proffered-food site during this time of year. But if in the area, bring a high powered scope just in case; on average there have been 15-20 birds present throughout the month of May.

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April 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers, April 2007 has had our field crew working hard tracking condors as they start to actuate into their summer foraging patterns. We can always bet that come April/May the flock will start to expand in both range of flight, as well as time spent away from the release site. This change in seasonal movement is attributed to the increasing temperature that allows for more efficient soaring conditions, and the return of the condor’s most useful ally in locating carcasses to feed upon- the turkey vulture.

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March 2007

Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings NFTF readers! As always in condor country, March of 2007 has been a very active month both for the wild population and the field crew monitoring them. This, due in part to the intense breeding behavior of older birds in addition to crew having new birds to monitor from our recent annual release.

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Spring 2007 West Texas Aplomado Falcon Survey

Brian Mutch — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Aplomado Falcon
Aplomado Falcon
During The Peregrine Fund’s fall planning meetings in Boise, Idaho, we decided to organize our first intensive survey for breeding Aplomado Falcons in west Texas. Having just completed our fourth season of releasing young Aplomados to this arid desert grassland, a northern extension of the Chihuahuan Desert, we all felt there was a good chance of discovering a breeding pair. So, on 10 March 2007, four Peregrine Fund biologists, Angel Montoya, Paul Juergens, Christina Kleberg, and I, met in Marfa, Texas, where we were joined by Peregrine Fund Founding Chairman and Director, Dr. Tom Cade. In our favor, a surprising weather report for the area called for little wind (March is a very windy month in west Texas), highs in the 70s, cool nights, and the chance for a cold front with a little precipitation—all in all, perfect conditions for surveying, and conditions we felt might make this small falcon a little more conspicuous in all this huge country.

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February 2007

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The movements of Arizona’s condor population calmed a bit in February, with most of the birds spending an increasing amount of time between the release site and the Colorado River corridor. A notable exception to this, however, was the expanding activity of established condor pairs as breeding season marched on. At least five strong pairs have developed so far this year, and we have seen extensive courtship and nest-searching behavior in each. Two of the pairs have produced wild chicks in previous years, and two more have incubated eggs in the past. The previous breeding experience in these four pairs bodes particularly well for their chances at success this season, and we’re eagerly and optimistically watching as they make their current attempts.

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January 2007

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The first month of the new year proved to be both productive and challenging for the Condor Project. We were able to complete our seasonal trapping of the entire Arizona population, and all of the birds being temporarily held in our treatment facility were re-released into the wild. We did, however, have additional lead-related fatalities in the population, an unfortunate end to a season in which the field crew put forth an incredible effort to protect as many birds and gather as much data as possible. The advent of the breeding season in the last weeks of the month, though, helped to end January on a very positive note.

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December 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! As hunting season came to a close in early December, Condor Project biologists maintained efforts in tracking and trapping birds— collecting valuable data on lead exposure in the population. We were able to capture and test the vast majority of the Arizona population by the end of the month, and we treated a number of condors for lead exposure in our Vermilion Cliffs treatment facility. We also continued the collection of carcasses from the field, both to gather data on the occurrence of lead fragments in the carcasses, and to prevent the birds from being exposed to those that did contain lead.

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November 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The Peregrine Fund’s condor crew has been running full bore for the last month, swarming the Kaibab Plateau in an attempt to document as much of the birds’ movement and feeding activity as possible while the hunting season is underway. With the help of hunters and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an extraordinary number of gutpiles and carcass remains have been recovered or turned in. This is extremely important, giving us information as to how many of these remains contain lead fragments, and preventing condors from being exposed to these fragments when lead ammunition has been used (for more information on lead and condors, see last month’s NFTF and the articles available at http://www.peregrinefund.org/pdf_articles.asp). We have also continued our fall trapping effort in order to assess lead levels in individual birds as they return to the release site.

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October 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The steady march of seasons rolled on last month, bringing snowfall in the higher elevations and the first signs of morning frost in the deserts below. More notably for condor project biologists, October also marked the beginning of hunting seasons in both Utah and Arizona. This is of particular concern to us, because we inevitably see an increase in lead exposure in the condor population at this time of year.

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September 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Fall is clearly upon us in northern Arizona; the days are becoming cooler, the nights cold, and the leaves are changing in the mountains. The condors began changing their patterns slightly in relation to the seasonal progression last month, moving around a bit more frequently from the high elevation regions of southern Utah and Grand Canyon National Park. They are still spending quite a bit of time in those areas, but have been increasingly traveling to the Kaibab Plateau, the Colorado River corridor upriver of the Grand Canyon, and the release site in Vermilion Cliffs.

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August 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Last month began relatively slowly, as we wrapped up our summer trapping and worked on a variety of projects to prepare for the upcoming hunting season. Fall is the time of year when the condor population in Arizona has seen the highest incidence of lead exposure, and these projects primarily involved readying and making improvements to our treatment facility in Vermilion Cliffs. Although these improvements will help us to be ready for anything, we hope to see a decline in lead exposure again this season, primarily due to the outstanding voluntary lead reduction program initiated by Arizona Game and Fish last year. The program, which offers two free boxes of non-lead ammunition to every big game tag holder in the condors’ primary foraging range in Arizona, will be continued again this season.

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July 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Monsoon season arrived none too soon this month, providing much-needed precipitation and somewhat cooler weather to the residents (human and otherwise) of northern Arizona. The frequent rains helped to finally contain the large wildfires consuming the area’s parched forests, and brought some relief from the stifling temperatures that we had been experiencing in the preceding weeks. The condors, for the most part, followed a pattern that has become typical for this time of year, with many birds escaping the heat by heading to the cooler high-altitude regions of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.

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June 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Many of you have probably heard about the large wildfires burning in northern Arizona and southern Utah through much of June. Although the fires affected the biologists on the Condor Project to some extent, limiting where we could safely travel to track the birds and intermittently enveloping our field headquarters in a thick cloud of smoke, the condors seemed relatively unfazed by the drastic changes in their environment. They appeared to go about their business more or less as usual, traveling and foraging extensively as they have been for most of the spring. One of the largest fires in northern Arizona was on the Kaibab Plateau, easily visible from the Vermilion Cliffs release site and right in the middle of the birds’ primary foraging range. The condors appeared to pay it little heed, skirting the huge fire to the east and west in their typical day-to-day travels.

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May 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! May was another beautiful month in northern Arizona, with warm, sunny days and springtime winds providing the conditions that suit foraging condors perfectly. The Arizona population took full advantage of the favorable weather, with even the most inexperienced birds in the flock traveling extensively throughout the condor range and locating an abundance of wild food. On the Kaibab Plateau alone, we documented groups of birds feeding on carcasses of a cow, a mule deer, and even a bison, which we had never before observed. In addition to the heavy utilization of the Kaibab Plateau by a large percentage of the population, several condors began regularly visiting the Zion region of southern Utah again.

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April 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Fortunately for the crewmembers on the condor project, things were a bit less hectic in April than they had been in the preceding months of 2006. Although the birds did use the beautiful spring weather to begin traveling extensively once again, we’ve come to expect that transition, and the month proceeded primarily as we would have hoped. We continued observations on our two remaining condor nests, both of which were active through the end of the month, in addition to monitoring the encouraging progress of both of last year’s wild-fledged chicks.

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March 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! I’m sure that those of you that read last month’s NFTF are interested in the condition of Condor 134, the bird that was rescued in the Grand Canyon and taken to the Phoenix Zoo for treatment of lead poisoning. The good news is that Condor 134 is still alive and seems to be improving; however, this turned out to be one of the good points in a month with quite a few dramatic ups and downs.

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2006 Field Season-March update

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Greetings from South Texas!

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2006 Field Season

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

We’ve accomplished a lot since the last update, so here is a quick summary to get everyone up to
speed:

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February 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The breeding season fell into full swing once again in February, with five California Condor pairs in the Arizona population exhibiting very promising behavior. Two of the five pairs have produced chicks in the past, and there is no reason to expect that they won’t be successful again this year. Two more of the pairs have attempted to breed previously; as it’s not uncommon for condor pairs to try for one or two years before producing a viable chick, we’re hopeful that this is the year that they’re able to pull it off. The last pair showing encouraging breeding behavior, two slightly younger birds, came as a pleasant surprise to all of us.

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January 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The new year began on a primarily positive note for The Peregrine Fund’s Condor Restoration. The first month of 2006, however, also presented new challenges and lessons for the biologists on the project. In January, we were able to re-release two condors, saw promising courtship behavior in a number of pairs, monitored the encouraging progression of our two most recent wild-fledged chicks, and, sadly, lost one bird to a relatively uncommon illness.

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December 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Happy New Year, Notes from the Field Readers! After a somewhat difficult month of November, the year ended encouragingly on all fronts for the Condor Project. In addition to the complete recovery and return of Condor 350, December saw the addition of seven young birds to Arizona’s captive population (to be released in the upcoming year) and significant progress in the development of both of this year’s wild chicks.

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November 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! I ended last month’s NFTF with the good news that we had trapped and tagged wild-fledged Condor 350, and explained the importance of having radio-telemetry and GPS available to track the condors. Unfortunately, Condor 350 illustrated that point all too well early in the month of November.

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October 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! October was an extremely busy month on the Condor Project, for reasons both expected and unexpected. Fortunately, the project crewmembers and volunteers proved well up to the tasks at hand, and it turned out to be an exceptionally productive month for the project as well.

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September 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! We spent most of the month of September gearing up for the fall, one of the busiest periods of the year for Condor Project biologists. The fall hunting season provides the condors with a tremendous food source, but also unfortunately provides numerous opportunities for lead exposure. This lead seems to be largely obtained in the form of lead bullet fragments from carcasses and gutpiles, and the rapidity with which the birds find these food sources requires us to track intensively throughout the fall to keep up with them (for more information on bullet fragmentation and lead exposure, see Hunt et. al.’s publication, “Bullet fragments in deer remains: implications for lead exposure in avian scavengers,” on The Peregrine Fund website at http://www.peregrinefund.org/pdfs/ResearchLibrary/Hunt-bullet-ms.pdf). If we find that a condor or group of condors has fed on a lead-contaminated carcass, we immediately attempt to trap the bird(s) to test and possibly treat them.

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August 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field (NFTF) readers! It seems that no matter how long any of us has worked on The Peregrine Fund’s California Condor Restoration Project, each month has the capacity to bring something new. Fortunately, those unpredictable events have been very positive for a number of months, and this trend continued in August. The first half of the month was relatively uneventful, as the birds maintained, for the most part, the traveling and foraging patterns that they had exhibited in July.

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July 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field (NFTF) readers! With July temperatures frequently reaching well above 100 degrees in much of northern Arizona, the condors spent a considerable amount of time at higher (and cooler) elevations throughout the month. In addition to the birds’ continued use of the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau, a large group established their annual presence near Utah’s Zion National Park. An initial group of about eight birds in the Zion area had increased to more than twice that by month’s end. The condors continued to exhibit their proficiency at foraging for food by finding a number of wild carcasses in each of the regions they occupied.

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June 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! In May’s installment of NFTF, I mentioned that the month of June would be very telling in whether our three wild nests in Arizona had produced chicks or not. This certainly turned out to be the case, as the status of all three nests became apparent fairly early in the month. There was no evidence of anything amiss in the first couple of days in June, and all three pairs continued to exhibit normal nesting behavior. On 3 June, however, first-time breeders Condors 136 and 187 returned to the release site together and roosted there that night. This was not good news for their breeding attempt. Their chick, if they had one, would probably not yet have been old enough to regulate its own body temperature for such an extended period of time. We maintained some hope when the female returned to the nest cave the next day, but both birds were away from the nest and back at the release site two days later. Any lingering doubts about the nest’s status were removed when the pair remained away for two consecutive nights, indicating that something had gone wrong.

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May 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings “Notes from the Field” readers! The condors in the Arizona population continued to travel a great deal in the warm May weather, and the last holdouts from the most recent group of releases finally left the release site to begin exploring their new world. Our two wild-hatched birds in Arizona also followed the trend, and continued to integrate into the rest of the population throughout the month. On 1 May, Condor 350, who fledged last year from a nest in the Grand Canyon, made its way to the release site in Vermilion Cliffs, at least 50 miles from its nest area. This was the first time that we had been able to document Condor 350 outside of Grand Canyon National Park, although we had suspected that Condor 350 had been traveling more and more widely for at least a few weeks. When Condor 350 arrived, it fed at leisure, perched with a variety of other birds, and generally seemed to make itself at home.

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April 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! To those that have been following the saga of wild-hatched Condor 342, the month of April held an exciting and encouraging conclusion to the first stage in this young bird’s life. After being captured in January due to evident health problems, Condor 342 had been transported to the Phoenix Zoo for surgery to remove a blockage in his digestive tract. He remained in captivity for nearly 20 days, leaving us unsure as to whether his parents, who were still providing food for him until his capture, would accept and care for him again when he was re-released. Upon being released, Condor 114, Condor 342’s father, picked up right where he had left off. The mother, however, seemed to abandon both birds almost entirely.

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March 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! The month of March started out on an exciting note, with the 1 March release of five new juvenile condors into Arizona’s free-flying population. Just two days later, the program’s first wild-fledged condor, Condor 305, returned to the release site for the first time in about seven months. After his first trip to the release site in July of 2004, he had spent the fall and winter near his nest cave in the Grand Canyon. We were elated upon seeing Condor 305 back at the release site, as we had observed him being chased extensively by his parents in the preceding weeks. This seemed to indicate that they were finally “cutting him off” of parental care to begin the process of producing another chick, forcing him to forage completely on his own for the first time.

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February 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The winter months in Arizona have typically provided condor project biologists with a bit of “down time”—a period where the birds travel somewhat less, providing a brief respite from the 13-hour days of summer tracking and the bustling schedule of trapping and lead testing in autumn. This lull in activity, however, has become steadily shorter with each passing year of the project. As the condor population in Arizona grows, and as the birds spend an increasing amount of time away from the release site at Vermilion Cliffs, the condor crew is required to be on their toes and ready for anything nearly year-round. Thankfully, the stellar group of field biologists working on the project prove time and again that they are up to the challenge, as the eventful month of February demonstrated.

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December 2004 – January 2005

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field readers. I left you last with news of the two new wild hatched fledglings here in northern Arizona, so I will just start there. Condor 350 (wild-hatched fledgling at the Grand Canyon) has been venturing out from the vicinity of the nest cave some 1.0 to 1.5 miles. Judging by these flights and the chick’s ability and willingness to roost away from the area of the nest cave, I would say that things are looking good for this chick. The parents are frequently visiting and are quite often a huge help in locating the tagless, transmitterless, young condor. Weather permitting, we can often view the chick from the rim, but when he or she is out of view, we like to hike into the canyon and make our observations. Consistent observation has been less than optimal this year due to bouts of bad weather, bringing more moisture than usual and causing the closure of the main trail into the Grand Canyon.

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November 2004

Chris Parish, Beau Fairchild — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field readers. Well, November truly played out as a month for giving thanks. Although this time of year tends to bring our spirits down a bit due to necessary lead testing, trapping and often cases of lead poisoning, we are now experiencing a new occurrence in the “to be expected” category—fledging! Those of you that have been following the Notes from the Field and possibly the recent media attention know what I am talking about. We have been waiting a little more than six months for two wild hatched condor chicks (Condors 350 and 342) to fledge in their respective nest caves in the Grand Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs.

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September-October 2004

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings to readers of Notes from the Field! We are extremely busy with yet another critical stage in the yearly cycle of condor monitoring. I will fill in the gaps and bring you up-to-date for the past two months.

At the last update, I left you with information on our two nestlings, including Condor 342 at Vermilion Cliffs and Condor 350 at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Both chicks, with only about ten days’ difference in age, appear to be developing as expected. Daily observations reveal increasingly vigorous bouts of flapping and jumping about as they continue to explore their nest caves and as much of the areas immediately surrounding the cave as they possibly can without losing footing.

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2004 Final Notes

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

As our last hacked Aplomado Falcon reached independence, the 2004 Aplomado field season officially ended. Since January the team worked hard to make 2004 the most successful Aplomado field season in the project’s history. The evidence of this success is reflected in the following numbers. For example, 32 of our “territorial pairs” pairs attempted to nest this year (21 Laguna/Brownsville and 11 Matagorda.) Three “territorial” pairs never attempted to nest and a fourth pair went missing at egg-laying time, never to resurface. Twenty of the “territorial” pairs successfully produced young, while 12 failed during incubating/chick brooding. Only two pairs (who failed) recycled in different nests. Out of the 32 territorial pairs, 54 wild Aplomado Falcons were produced and fledged into the wild (31 around Laguna Atascosa/Brownsville area and 23 on Matagorda Island).

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August 2004

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

Right when you believe that another week of the sometimes-intolerable summer heat will do you in, you find yourself following a condor to a place you’ve never been. Like any job, just when you begin to think you have a handle on the daily tasks, a curve ball slips by.

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July 2004

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

I began last month’s update with a peek into July by describing the visual confirmation of Condor 342, the Vermilion Cliffs' nestling from 2004. Had I waited another day or two, I could have included the following information from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon—just three days after we visually confirmed the Vermilion Cliffs' chick (Condor 342), biologists and Grand Canyon nest watch volunteers were treated to the first sighting of Condor 350, also produced in 2004. Its parents are nine-year-old female Condor 119 and nine-year-old male Condor 122. For those of you with long memories of these notes, you may remember that these two adult condors were first released in May of 1997 at the Vermilion Cliffs release site. Cheers and sighs of relief greeted the reproduction of a chick by this pair that has tried without success to breed during the past two years. It brings us to the next level of concern (and crossed fingers) for the next important stage: fledging. By the time of this posting, both chicks will have made it roughly halfway through the six-month pre-fledging period. Observations from both nest caves continue to show daily visits, many times including feedings, by the parents. Nearly everyday, reports come in from biologists and volunteers exclaiming about very healthy and active chicks exploring their respective caves.

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June 2004

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

I will begin this happy update by reviewing some history. Remember that sometime near the middle of March, veteran crew member Eddie Feltes and his coworkers noticed a change in the behavior of Condors 114 and 149 at a cave on the face of Vermilion Cliffs. It had already been established that these condors were showing great interest in one another as well as the cave. Had Condor 149 laid an egg? The behavior of the male and female certainly suggested that they were taking turns incubating, although the distance and angle to the cave entrance made observations difficult. Based on the date we first observed this behavior, plus countless hours of more observation, digging through literature, phone calls to the captive breeding folks, and many crossed fingers, we figured we might soon have a chick.

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2004 Field Season Update #2

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

To date we’ve fledged 48 young from wild nests (26 around the Laguna Atascosa/Brownsville area and 20 on Matagorda Island). Thirty-two of our “territorial pairs” attempted to nest this year (21 Laguna/Brownsville and 11 Matagorda.) Three “territorial” pairs never attempted to nest, while a fourth pair went missing at egg-laying time, never to resurface. Twenty of the “territorial” pairs successfully produced young, while 12 failed during incubating/chick brooding. So far only two pairs (who failed) recycled in different nests. Here is how our different nests produced:

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May 2004

Chris Parish — in California Condor Restoration

Before we begin this month’s installment of Notes from the Field, I would like to give a sincere thank you and a warmest goodbye to a valued friend and coworker. Sophie Osborn, our Field Manager for the past four years, has moved down the road of her career to another chapter in the life of a fantastic biologist. For those of you who have followed her “Notes from the Field,” you will know what I mean when I say we have lost a tremendous asset to the California Condor Restoration Project. Her contributions go far beyond her wonderful writing talents. To write that way, she did have to be there, and Sophie was there indeed!

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2004 Field Season Update

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Since the last update the Aplomado Team has been busy reading bands, observing pairs, and locating active nests in South Texas. To date we observed 81 individual Aplomado Falcons between Matagorda Island NWR and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The team has collectively read 68 Aplomado identification bands from 38 pairs and seven non-paired Aplomado Falcons (with nine un-banded falcons within the population). So far 29 Aplomado pairs are incubating eggs in a variety of natural and human-made nests. The big news is 15 of our falcon pairs are nesting in our artificial nest boxes.

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30 March 2004

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

It has been an incredible time in Arizona Condorland. Condor 305, our wild-hatched chick and the first condor to fledge successfully in the wild since the inception of the captive breeding program, has found its wings and has finally discovered the other condors! For months following Condor 305’s unprecedented leap out of the nest, it has remained in close proximity to where it was raised. With the rest of the condor flock beginning to move around more with the coming of spring weather, we felt it was only a matter of time, before Condor 305 began moving beyond the confines of its nest drainage. But rather than Condor 305 flying out to meet the other condors, on March 13, an influx of free-flying condors discovered Condor 305.

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5 February 2004

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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23 December 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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20 November 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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27 October 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers. I am sure many of you have been anxiously awaiting news of Arizona’s first wild-hatched condor chick! Condor 305, as our chick is now known, is alive and well and seems increasingly anxious to leave the confines of its nest cave. Condor 305 is now 25 weeks old and we expect it to leave the nest any day. Its flight and body feathers are fully grown and it looks like any other juvenile condor except that its head is a paler gray and it has no wing tags! It spends much of its day resting in the front of the cave, awaiting its parents and its next meal. Each day, Condor 305 has one or two periods of tremendous activity when it flaps frenetically and runs out of view into the back of the cave then reappears running and flapping madly. It cranes its head looking for a place to climb and has given watching field crew members many tense moments as it clambers out onto a barely discernible ledge on the west side of its cave and flaps against the cliff. During such moments, we can’t help but feel that the chick’s fledging is going to happen by accident, when it loses its balance and is forced to take flight!

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20 September 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers. Just a quick update to let you know that the first wild-hatched condor in Arizona is alive and well! Our first baby condor recently received its name! Henceforth, it will be known as Condor 305. Although this may sound like a mere number to most people, to those of us that monitor the condors on a daily basis these numbers become names.

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The 2003 Aplomado Hack Season Comes to an End

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

As our last Aplomado Falcon reaches independence, the 2003 hack season comes to an end.  Through hard work and diligence the 2003 season was a great success.  In south Texas 28 of the 32 (88%) young Aplomado Falcons released made it to independence, while west Texas successfully fledged 36 of their 48 (75%) falcons.  In total The Peregrine Fund enhanced the Northern Aplomado population with 64 falcons released from five locations (South Padre Island, Laguna Atascosa NWR, the Means Ranch, Miller Ranch, and McKnight Ranch.)  As always the numbers reflect the dedication of the Aplomado field team and hack site attendants. 

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20 August 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers! Details of the last few weeks will follow soon, but I thought you’d all appreciate a sneak preview of the recent exciting events in Arizona Condorland.

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1- 15 August 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Perhaps I am being fanciful, but it often seems as though condors return “home” to the release area when they are feeling unwell. Over the years, we have been fortunate in discovering that several condors had recently ingested lead by trapping them upon their return to the release site. Whether the condors returned to the one place they know of that has a stable, reliable food supply because something felt not-quite-right with them or whether it was pure coincidence and we happened to get lucky with our trapping is anyone’s guess.

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15 - 31 July 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

I have said before that the ups and downs of working with condors resemble riding a roller coaster. Lows are invariably followed by highs, delight all too often wages with fear. The second half of July epitomized this analogy. We started out on a high. On July 16, Project Director Chris Parish trapped Condor 123, the father of our first wild-hatched condor chick and our most dominant condor. Condor 123 had increased all of our stress levels by going into stealth mode (meaning both of his radio-transmitters stopped functioning) on July 7. Unable to track his movements using his radio signals as we do with all the condors, we had to rely on chance sightings and feared we would never know what happened to him if he suddenly disappeared. Fortunately, we need not have worried. Condor 123 spent his seven days in stealth mode under our watchful eyes as he fed on an elk that had fallen off the rim of the Grand Canyon and calf carcasses that we had put out at night for the condors at our release site.

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1 - 15 July 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

When tourists view condors at the South Rim for the first time, the awe that they feel is quickly followed by curiosity about these giant birds and the efforts to restore them. After we explain that we monitor the birds all day, every day using radio telemetry, the invariable follow-up questions are “How long do the batteries in the radio transmitters last?” and “What do you do when the batteries die?” Since the batteries last about a year, the answer to the second question is that we must retrap the birds to replace the transmitters. This response is always followed by a look of amazement and disbelief and an exclamation of “How on earth can you catch a bird like that?!”

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The 2003 Aplomado Hack Season

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Once again time has flown by in a flurry of activity. Over the past couple of months the Aplomado team has been hard at work surveying new potential habitat, keeping track of breeding pairs, banding wild nestlings, documenting fledging success and starting up the 2003 hack season.

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16 - 30 June 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

At 0630 on the already warm morning of June 18, Project Director Chris Parish opened up our baited condor trap and settled back in a folding chair in the trapping blind to await the arrival of the giant birds. Only four condors had roosted at the release site on the Vermilion Cliffs the night before, so he expected to get off to a rather slow start. We were finally beginning the task of recapturing our 35 free-flying condors to inoculate them against the dreaded West Nile Virus. Although West Nile was not yet present in Arizona, we could not afford to take risks, given the few California Condors that exist in the wild. Many of the captive condors that form the breeding program had already been vaccinated with a vaccine developed specially for the condors and it was now time to confer a measure of protection on the wild birds.

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1 - 15 June 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Whenever condor field crewmembers return to the Vermilion Cliffs to visit or call to ask us how the condors are doing, their first question is invariably, “How is 241 doing?” Aside from the ever-present specter of lead poisoning, how Condor 241 would fare when she first encountered people-areas was perhaps the over-riding concern for anyone that worked on the condor project in the last year. In the beginning of June, we all finally had to face our demons. And, to our eternal surprise, they amounted to very little.

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16 - 31 May 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

On the morning of May 20, a Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) helicopter flew through normally restricted air space and set down in the canyon on the massive formation known as The Battleship. Three people climbed out and headed toward the cliff rim. About a mile away, up on the canyon rim by Hopi Point, assembled Peregrine Fund and park personnel anxiously monitored their progress through binoculars and spotting scopes. Today, we hoped to discover why Condor 119 and 122’s Battleship nest had failed.

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1 - 15 May 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

As hot-pink prickly pear cactus flowers began bursting over the desert like fireworks, the condor field crew anxiously watched our breeding birds for any hint that we might at long last be able to celebrate the hatching of the first wild condor chick in Arizona in decades. Despite our hopes, the adult condors’ behavior remained frustratingly unclear. On May 4, Condors 119 and 122 raised our hopes by switching incubation duties in their cave twice in one day. When a condor chick is hatching (a process that can take up to three days), first-time condor parents are typically very curious about their egg’s bizarre transformation and both parents will spend time together in the nest and switch nest duty more frequently. For the next three or four days, the pair took daily turns at nest duty, as opposed to the two to four days of nest duty that had been typical for them in March and April. Could their egg finally have hatched?

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Preparing for the 2003 Aplomado Hack Season

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

With the return of the Peregrine Fund’s Aplomado Falcon field team to Texas in January the season officially began.  The team this year consists of Brian Mutch, Angel Montoya, Paul Juergens, Jessi Brown, and Erin Gott.

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16 - 30 April 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

On April 19, Condor 250 landed on a low wall adjacent to the rim trail that passes through Grand Canyon Village. Hopping to the ground, he quickly drew the attention of numerous tourists, who sought to get as close to him as possible. Unlike most condors, Condor 250 showed little fear. It was the moment we had been waiting for. For the past week or two we had been hoping for an opportunity to recapture Condor 250. His excessive curiosity and fearlessness put him at risk and threatened to entice condors that would usually behave appropriately into bad situations.

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1 - 15 April 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

The life of a field biologist can be surprisingly dull at times. Days in the field are exceedingly long and all too often consist of hours of waiting for an animal to show up, watching it rest for hours on end, or driving long distances listening to the monotonous blips of radio transmitter signals. Days are often spent in solitude in remote areas in inhospitable conditions. Clearly, it is not the life for everyone.

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16 - 31 March 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Although using caves as nest sites has undoubtedly benefited condors for many thousands of years, this breeding strategy can be extremely frustrating for the biologists who are attempting to monitor the birds’ nesting activities. Unable to see into our condors’ nest caves, the Arizona condor field crew has to content itself with watching the adult condors’ behavior for clues about the status of their nesting effort. After weeks of wondering what our condor quad was doing in their cave on the southwest corner of the Paria Plateau and hiking to innumerable different vantage points to try in vain to get a look into the cave, we finally took more drastic measures to satisfy our curiosity.

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1- 15 March 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Sometimes releases of juvenile condors are just plain boring. Even after the front gate on the release pen has been opened up, young birds often wait for hours before either noticing their pen now has an exit or overcoming their timidity enough to investigate the opening by taking the first tentative steps out of the pen.

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1- 28 February 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

As befits the month containing Valentine’s Day, February was a time of romance and adventure for the Arizona condors! Romance for the older birds and adventure for the youngsters. Courtship activities continued to heat up for the breeding birds. Condor 122 and 123 repeatedly cemented their pairings with their respective mates of almost two years—Condors 119 and 127.

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16 - 31 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Beechcraft-18 used to transport condors<br /> from Boise, Idaho to Page, Arizona for release.
Beechcraft-18 used to transport condors
from Boise, Idaho to Page, Arizona for release.
On January 18, the condor field crew did something that it hadn’t done in years. Rather than gathering up our tracking equipment and setting out alone to the various zones (the release site, “up top,” the river corridor, the South Rim, etc.) from which we usually monitor the condors, the whole crew convened at the airport in Page, Arizona. Around noon, we would be receiving a very special delivery: eight new juvenile condors!! Our last batch of condors had been flown to us in November of 2001 by U. S. Forest Service pilots, who had delivered them almost to our doorstep in Marble Canyon, AZ. This time, friend and cooperator, Norm Freeman, who has helped with the Condor and Aplomado Falcon Projects innumerable times in the past, made arrangements for a charter plane to transport the young condors from The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise Idaho, where they had been raised, to the airport in Page. With funding from the BLM and Catalina Flying Boats, Inc., the Beechcraft-18 owned by Catalina Flying Boats, Inc. made the flight with their pilot, Annette, and Norm serving as the co-pilot.

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2 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Just a quick note to let you know that the first stirrings of the condor breeding season are upon us! Condors 119 and 122 have spent the last week to ten days in and around last year's Battleship nest cave at the South Rim. The last two to three days, the pair have spent most of each day in drainages west of the Horn Creek Drainage. We suspect that they have been investigating caves in these areas, but have not been able to get visuals on them doing so yet.

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1 - 15 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

The New Year began on a high note with the return of Condor 249 from his convalescence at the Phoenix Zoo. Condor 249 had contracted lead poisoning during his sojourn on the west flank of the Kaibab Plateau in November and December of 2002. After finishing his chelation treatment and passing the metallic fragment that he had ingested, Condor 249 finally had been given a clean bill of health and was cleared to come home to the Vermilion Cliffs. A heartfelt “Thank you!” to Dr. Katherine Orr and her dedicated staff for restoring our young condor to good health.

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16 - 31 December 2002

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

December 2002 ended much as it had begun: stormy skies, coupled with increasingly sedentary condors; excitement over re-releasing now-healthy condors, sobered by lingering concerns about lead; steadily accelerating condor courtship, accompanied by the field crew’s condor matchmaking and speculation about the upcoming breeding season.

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The 2002 Aplomado Hack Season

Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

As the dog days of summer bring the Aplomado Falcon team closer to the end of hack season, it is difficult not to reflect on the past two months with sentiment and pride.  Over the past eight weeks the team acted as guardians to more than 100 juvenile Aplomado Falcons.  During this time we experienced a spectrum of emotion—from joy, when witnessing our falcons' first flights, to despair, when discovering a falcon dead from natural predation.   But as the summer nears its end and our Aplomado Falcons gain greater confidence in their skills, we understand the project's big picture. The birds that survive will help supplement the wild population of the Northern Aplomado Falcon. This goal, combined with the dynamic presence of the falcons, is what gives us  strength to tolerate the endless hours in tough field conditions.  In fact, one of the most challenging aspects of our job is to trouble shoot problems that arise at each hack site.

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The 2002 Hacking Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

On 6 July 2002, Peregrine Fund biologist field supervisor, Angel Montoya, Marta Curti, and landowner/rancher Jon Means opened the door to a hack box containing six juvenile Aplomado Falcons on the Means Ranch, just outside Van Horn, Texas. In less than an hour, three of the birds had emerged from the box. Soon after, a young male Aplomado took his first flight, marking the first time a known juvenile Aplomado Falcon has flown free across the open grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert within the United States for over half a century.

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Banding Wild Chicks and Preparing for the 2002 Hacking Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

With summer officially underway, and hack season already beginning, this is a busy time for the Aplomado Falcon field crew. This month, we find ourselves still banding wild-born falcons, rearing young falcons in the hack boxes, and planning for our third release, less than a week away. 

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Reading Bands and Preparing for the 2002 Nesting Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

The transition from winter to spring marks the beginning of the nesting season for the Aplomado Falcon in southeast Texas.  For us, the field crew, it marks the beginning of long, hot days spent battling mosquitoes, ticks, snakes, and our own tired eyes as we try to locate and identify new and established pairs of wild Aplomado Falcons. 

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Experiences of an Aplomado Falcon Hack Site Attendant

Swathi Sridharan — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

It is a struggle for me to awake at 5:30 a.m.  The 20-minute drive to work is different every morning, enthralling in the way of slowly revealed secrets: deer, vultures swooping on road kill, snakes, and an eastern sky that shines gently some mornings and burns fiercely on others

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Texas Central Power and Light to the Rescue

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Since the inception of the Aplomado Falcon recovery project, The Peregrine Fund has worked with such past and current partners as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife, American Electric Power (AEP) - Central Power and Light, and many private landowners, in order to raise and transport falcons, to build facilities, to
band birds, and to identify and utilize release sites. These strong and diverse partnerships have made up an integral part of the program itself and have contributed greatly to its success. Recently, an event occurred that demonstrates the commitment and concern that these outside agencies and individuals have for this endangered species and its recovery.

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2001 Field Season

Amy Nicholas — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

At 0700 on 15 May, Angel Montoya, Marta Curti, Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kelley Hayes, and myself were preparing to leave from the boat dock at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) to band the first Aplomado Falcon chicks of the season, located on Matagorda Island NWR.  This is perhaps the most exciting time on the Aplomado Falcon project.
These chicks are the culmination of endless hours of hard work and the cooperation of numerous individuals and agencies.  They are the best indication of the success of these combined efforts.  

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2001 Field Season Begins!

Amy Nicholas — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

In the pre-dawn hours of 27 March, Angel Montoya and I headed to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.  Our goal was to survey for Aplomado Falcons on Unit 4, a remote section of the refuge accessible only by boat.  At Laguna headquarters Alfredo Salinas, refuge personnel, was waiting to ferry us and the two ATVs across a short section of the Arroyo Colorado.   While we loaded the ATVs onto the boat, we became aware that our prayers for good weather had not been answered; the rising sun illuminated a sky full of ominous dark clouds.  Obviously, it was going to be a very wet, muddy day. 

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